Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond

“Ever since the garden of Eden the world has been discontent, and ever since thenchasing contentm God has been pursuing people to make them content in him.”  This statement, from the conclusion of Erik Raymond’s book Chasing Contentment, summarizes the human struggle. Raymond does a great job pointing to the primary problem of dissatisfaction and discontent: we are looking to be satisfied by things other than God.  “Being content in God,” Raymond writes, “is being satisfied in God regardless of what is going on outside you.” Later in the book, he elaborates on self-denial by saying that “this mandates a rejection of a life based on self-interest and self-fulfillment.”

Raymond shines the light of truth into our discontented hearts by addressing the providence of God and how being discontented stems from a heart that doesn’t trust in God’s providence. He addresses the important place the church has when it comes to discontentment and the importance of rejecting the desires of the world. Living for Christ and loving him above all things moves us closer to contentment.

This book is a good tool to begin us toward the journey of true contentment in God. I say begin because this is a journey. We will continually have to battle the temptation to desire the things off this life (created things) above things that are eternal (the Creator and his Kingdom). I recommend this book; it contains great insight. May God grant us perseverance in the application of the insights and may they take root in our hearts.

I received this book from Crossway’s Beyond the Page program in exchange for a review.

Nourishing Meals by Segersten & Malterre

My wife and I have been on a journey toward eating healthy. We are trying to cut out preservatives and processed foods, eliminating all the garbage from our diet. We have both lost weight and feel better. Yes, we have had our time365s of backsliding, but overall have done well. One of the keys to successful change in eating is variety. This is why having recipes that provide alternatives to all the junk we hold so dear is so important. This is where Nourishing Meals by Alisa Segersten and Tom Malterre comes in. This is a book with 365 whole-food and allergy free recipes. And gluten-free. This book is packed full of recipes of all kinds that will help you begin to feed yourself and your family in a way that will promote healthy living.

For beginners in healthy eating (like me), some of the recipes can be intimidating because you won’t have the necessary spices, etc. to make the dishes. That is going to be the case because you are changing the way you live, so the contents of your pantry is going to change over time. Don’t get frustrated because it won’t be long until you will have made the transition and feel and look better for it.

This book is a great addition to your healthy “toolbox” and would make a great gift as the holiday season approaches.

I received this book from Bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for a review.

Taste and See by John Piper

piperTaste and See is a collection of 125 daily meditations written by John Piper. The subtitle of the book points to what the reader can expect: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life.  The meditations are written in typical Piper style. They are full of scripture and personal application. Piper shares excerpts from his personal journals and family life and struggles. He addresses the pains and struggles of life, always pointing to Christ and the scriptures as the foundation for his direction and foundation.

If devotional books are what you normally use for your daily quiet time, Taste and See is a good one to use. Since there are so many scripture references (which is a great thing), keep your Bible handy. The meditations are more meaningful and are illuminated by deeper study of each scripture referenced. The book has been designed for ease of use as a reference tool by having subject, person, and scripture indexes.

As with any John Piper book, if you want to be led to the enjoyment of God in his supremacy, this is a good one to own.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper

stories we tellI love a good story, whether it be a novel or movie or television show. I get caught up in and taken away by the characters and situations the characters find themselves in. I have often wondered What is it about this show or movie that attracts people? Why do so many connect with shows like Breaking Bad or movies like the Harry Potter series?  Mike Cosper points to the larger story of God’s redemptive history as the foundation for why humanity has always been in love with story. The Stories We Tell explains how all of the stories we are so fascinated with are reflecting God’s larger story  and are pointing to truth and our deep longings for all that is wrong with the world to be made right.

This book will help movie and TV fans make sense of why they are attracted to the stories they watch and will also provide a new lens to view them through. This new way of viewing will open up ways to connect with and discuss movies and TV with others and ultimately point people to God as the author of each of our life stories. We can see all of life as a part of the big story.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in the concept of story, TV and movie fanatics (or those that live with or are friends of these screen addicts). Since movies and television are such an influential part of our culture, this is a helpful resource for church leaders to provide guidance in how to talk about the entertainment we engage in.

I received this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review

The Acrylic Painter by James Van Patten

Acrylic painter

A good painting can take you places, stir up emotion, and show the beauty in and around us. But what goes into the actual craft itself? I am fascinated by how an artist starts with a blank canvas and some brushes and paints and ends with a piece of art that inspires. I have done a little painting myself but want to learn how to do it better, as may some of you. James Van Patten, successful and gifted painter, has put together a book containing the tools and techniques for acrylic painting. The Acrylic Painter covers the basics (plus more) of how to paint with acrylics. Chapters are dedicated to paints, brushes, surfaces, color theory, and special techniques.

I believe God has instilled in all of us the desire and ability to create. He is a creating God and we are created in his image. Painting is just one way in which we can point to the beauty of God as we seek to display it through colors on a canvas. Van Patten’s book will prove to be a useful resource for me personally as I develop my painting skills.

The Acrylic Painter is for beginner and advanced painters alike. Everyone can learn and this book will aid in the process.  I look forward to applying the principles and techniques provided in this great book on the art and craft of Acrylic painting.

This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

 

Evicted by Matthew Desmond (A Book Review)

Evicted

I have worked with low income families in the welfare system for the past 15 years. I have seen firsthand how poverty devastates parents, children, and communities. It is difficult to sit with individuals that have lost hope and can’t seem to overcome barriers such as lack of education, housing instability, childcare issues, transportation and employment problems.

Housing instability is one area I have not had much experience with since we generally refer clients out to the agencies that handle that. I am familiar with homelessness and know many people, including my wife, that work with organizations that serve the homeless population. The impact of housing on individuals and families is brought into clear focus with Matthew Desmond’s new book.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City brings the reader into the daily lives of both landlords and tenants of low-income housing. This well researched book provides a close look at the cycle of housing instability from both sides of the fence, those being evicted and those doing the evicting.  Written in an easy to read style, Desmond enters into the personal lives of landlords and the business side of housing, showing how money is made from people with no money. The eviction process and its effects is described in detail, making it understandable how housing instability perpetuates itself. Desmond also enters the lives of the evicted and we get to hear their stories and feel their pain.

If you are interested in learning more about poverty and housing barriers for the poor, this book would be a good place to start. Packed with real life stories about real people and events, this book will educate you on this issue plaguing our nation. Desmond also provides a large note section at the end of the book for anyone wanting to do further reading and research on the topic. I thought I had a good grasp on this issue until I read this book.  This is an area that the church can and should be more involved in. This will involve getting our hands dirty as we help broken families and communities in getting out of the cycle of housing instability and restored.

I received this book from  Blogging for Books in exchange for  an honest review.

 

Awe by Paul David Tripp

AweHuman beings are hardwired for Awe. We are all going to be in awe of something. It may be that “awesome” new car or house you want. You may be in awe of your accomplishments or the sunrise you see every morning. We all have hearts that are easily captivated. Our hearts were designed for that. In his  latest book Awe, Paul David Tripp says, “God created man with an awe capacity….every created awe is meant to point to the creator.”  Tripp points out that we all have an awe problem and he calls it awe wrongedness.  Awe wrongedness is when we attribute to something in the physical creation what only God can do. Basically, we fail to give praise where praise is due. To God.

Tripp takes individual chapters to uncover our awe problem. He writes about ministry, materialism, replacement of awe of God with awe of the created, complaining, parenting, work, and the church.  In each chapter, he shows how our struggles and lack of abundant life in each area is rooted in an awe deficiency and dysfunction – we are in awe of the wrong things. Our awe of God has been replaced by awe of self and this awe wrongedness taints our worldview and our walk with God becomes a limp.

I was challenged by this book but was encouraged as God revealed to me my own awe wrongedness. I often gravitate toward awe of myself and the created rather than awe of God. Tripp has done us a great service by taking the time to look at the awe problem of humankind.

I recommend that individuals and churches take the time to use the truth found in this book in small groups or even from the pulpit. We are all in need of a recalibration of our awe.  Awe matters for everything we think say and do.

This book was provided to me by Crossway in exchange for an honest review.

The Voices of Holy Week

imagesNWCW0H0YIt is Holy Week and Jesus is on his way to the cross. His eyes are fixed on his mission, the reason for the Word becoming flesh.  He will overcome the world, sin and death through his spilled blood and broken body. The sound of his blood flowing from his body is louder than crowds call out “Hosanna” and more intense than the angry mob screaming, “Crucify Him!”  The voice of the creation is drowned out by the voice of the creator saying, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” It is too easy to forget about all that this week means as we prepare to enjoy time with friends and family.  We too easily forget the dark cloud that blocks out the sun. The dark cloud of sin, the reason for Jesus and his journey to the cross. He would sweep the blackest of clouds away with one movement of his hand as his voice says, “Let there be light!”  A new day dawns with sin and death defeated on that glorious Easter morning. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!  His voice calls to us on this day and his voice is the only one that matters.

Renovate by Leonce B. Crump Jr.

Few of us give much thought to where we live and how we fit into the community we are a part of. In his new book Renovate, Leonce Crump looks closely at the importance of taking the time to get to know the people and place in which you live, prior to trying to minister and be an instrument of change in it.  He speaks of the “ministry of presence,” which involves our embodying a theology of place and a clear sense of sentnessrenovate. We as Christians must understand and embrace the reality that we are where we are because God sent us there. Where we are or choose to live is not about our convenience, comfort or safety. These are not primary. The primary is how we interact in our neighborhoods, how we understand and interact with the inner workings of the past, present and desired positive futures of our communities. We have to become part of the neighborhood, not just see the neighborhood as a project that we travel into to do ministry “saving work” and then quickly escape back to our safe homes. We are to travel into and dwell among the people, just as God chose to do with this world as he came to dwell among men.

Renovate is a good resource for the local church in helping it think through how to reach the community in which it dwells. The chapters on “A Theology of Place” and “The Sanity of Sentness” are worth immersing yourself in. I personally am in the process of finding a new home so this book was timely in helping me think through priorities in choosing a home.  The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the way it ended, in the Epilogue. The Epilogue was a discussion of racial prejudices and injustices. Though I didn’t disagree with the content, I felt it ended the book with a racial tone that wasn’t in line with what I saw as the primary point of the book, which wasn’t simply racial reconciliation. It felt more like someone venting frustration and I think the thoughts would have been better suited as a foundation for a separate book. It took away from the rest of the book. Other than that, the book is a valuable read and will prove to have some helpful tips for pastors, church planters, and lay ministers alike.

 

 

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

slj“It’s time. It’s time.” All of nature has been waiting for the Christ child and the time has come. The Christmas story is always full of wonder and mystery, the greatest being God become flesh to dwell with men. Sally Lloyd-Jones has captured the anticipation of this great event in her children’s book, Song of the Stars. This unique approach to communicating the Christmas story will help children and adults alike in rekindling the excitement of the incarnation. Filled with beautiful paintings by Alison Joy, this book is sure to bring joy at the most wonderful time of the year.

Song of the Stars is a good addition to the stories being read during the holiday season. The book is small and will be easy to hold by even small-handed readers and its thick pages make it durable. This book is a fast and enjoyable read. A great Christmas gift, but give it early so it can add to the season’s festivities.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.